I don’t have ALL the answers, but here’s what I’ve learned about being a romance writer.
Being a romance writer does require creativity. But, just like any other job, it requires some work. Here is what I’ve learned during my journey as a romance writer:
Do the research.
No, I’m not suggesting you do THAT kind of research. Surely you know enough about sex to get through a rough draft of sex scenes. And if you don’t, just fake it till you make it, like you did with that one boyfriend who thought the clitoris was a kind of dinosaur. What I’m suggesting is basically a professional form of eavesdropping. Observation and attention to detail are your best friends as a romance writer.
Study couples—how they interact, how they speak, their body language, how they fight, and most importantly, how they make up. Take notes (discreetly) in your phone of phrases or actions that resonate with you. But don’t go too far. You don’t want to be that person dictating the scene in a coffee shop like a nature documentary narrator. The people around you are your greatest inspirations. Use them. You may even interact with them. If things go further than that, remember to use protection and at least offer breakfast in the morning. Yeah, baby!
Grow some balls.
This is figuratively, of course…because…eww. I mean that the publishing world can be a tough place. If you’re a timid introvert who would rather die than socialize and promote yourself, this is going to be difficult. Of course, romance writers are notorious for living in their pajamas for days at a time—greasy hair pulled up in a knot, surviving only on peanut butter crackers and room temperature coffee—so that they can make deadline.
But there comes a time when you have to put your big girl panties on (and pants too—sorry not sorry). You have to become that outgoing, social butterfly you’ve always avoided. If you have to, create an alternate persona for these times. Make her anything you want her to be, like a character from your book. Let her wear glasses or sexy underwear, whatever works. You’re the author; write your character’s personality. Inside, you can still be the hot mess that you’ve always been. But outside you’ll need to be a bad ass, confident writer with a tough veneer and a killer vocabulary.
Once you’ve mastered this technique, it will also come in handy when you’ve got to face your five aunts who read your books and want to discuss blow job techniques over Thanksgiving turkey and green bean casserole.
Don’t ever apologize.
Many times, the romance genre is dismissed as fluff. “It’s just smut,” they’ll say. When my first book was published and I told people I was a writer they would ask, “What do you write?” I would always look at the floor and mumble “romance novels,” in a quiet voice that was contrite and begging not to be judged. Right away this sent the message that I was insecure about what I wrote. That wasn’t the case at all! But our misogynistic society told me to be ashamed of romance, and so I played my role perfectly. Until one day, I realized… “I published a book! No, wait! I published THREE books! That is nothing to be embarrassed about!”
There was a whole epiphany that followed with lots of internal monologue. There may have been dancing, a chorus of “I am Woman,” and maybe a crotch grab or two. I knew there was nothing to apologize for. I am proud of my books. I work hard. I invest time, heart and soul in everything I write. And it took me a while, but I know now that no one can tell me how to feel.
Someone once told me that there are no original ideas anymore. I call bullshit. Sure, art inspires other art, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t original. A lot of things happen in real life that readers would be quick to call out as “unrealistic” in a novel. That’s where things get tricky. Keep your stories fresh and inventive. Find a balance between what works for your characters and what works in the world you’ve created. Sure, there are tried and true (and predictable) formulas that work for some authors (cough-Nicholas-Sparks-cough).
But what works for one book writer, doesn’t necessarily work for you. If your story is reminiscent of others, then find a unique way to tell it. Don’t ever, ever, ever write to create a bestseller. Just when you think you’ve written an amazing new release of what’s trending now, the trend will change. Then you and your novel are left behind. Plus, if you’re writing just for the money… you’re in the wrong business. Most of us still have our day jobs. Basically, write for you!
It is a great time to be a romance writer. The romance genre is filled with authors of every race, sexuality, gender, and background. It’s so easy to find people to connect with. With the wide world of social media, it is easer than ever to stalk—I mean befriend—your favorite authors. Of course there are divas who exist in every profession. But I promise, most of us are super nice.
Those who have been in the business for a while are almost always willing to offer advice or answer questions. It’s rare to find such a large group of women who empower and encourage each other so freely. You will find a reliable network in the romance writers’ community. Build your tribe and work to be a contributing member. These are friendships that will last a lifetime.
Lastly, don’t take everything so seriously. Writing is a job, but it is an exciting one. It is something that makes you giddy when you sit down and get to spill your brain onto a keyboard. It grants us a high, an adrenaline rush, just to be doing what we love. And if it doesn’t, then you’re not doing it right.
Learn about my next sexy adventure in Chaos and Control.
Season Vining is the author of romance novels, lives in the dirty South, has sriracha in her purse, needs more shoes, and doesn’t give a shit about the Kardashians. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.